North Berwick is a wonderful place to visit for many reasons, not least because it is home to the national Seabird Centre, which includes views and trips over the Firth of Forth, home to hundreds of thousands of seabirds.
Perched on the edge of the harbour rocks, to Seabird Centre is exposed, but also brilliantly positioned to offer great views all over the firth. You pay in the shop, but because the centre is on the rocks, you have to go downstairs to the main Discovery Centre. This is divided into different areas, named mainly after the islands (e.g. Craigleith, Bass Rock, Fidra), with a different focus in each.
There is a great area for kids, one of the first places you spot on descent to the Discovery Centre. Soft play will help to entertain the youngest ones. A station for rubbing bird pictures gives you a chance to trace the shapes of all the local breeds, and is great fun for adults too.
In the Bass Rock zone is a huge model. From the shore, the island looks square and even squat, but the model helps you to appreciate how this volcanic plug trails out into the sea. It is much larger than you might appreciate. Buttons light up notable sites on the model. It's useful just to see where the cameras are positioned, to give you a better understanding of what you're seeing when you watch the screens.
Staff are dedicated, helpful and enthusiastic. A rolling programme of talks and demonstrations makes it hard to leave, because there's always something interesting to wait for. Just in case you find yourself at a loose end, you can lose yourself watching the birds, or head into the Wildlife Theatre where there is a menu of wildlife films you can watch. This centre is about wider within their wider context; the whole ecosystem matters.
Beyond the children's table is a wind-tunnel filled with information about various migrating animals. There is also a film station, with a discovery film about the seas and coral reefs narrated by a turtle.
As you head out, upstairs again, you reach a proper viewing platform (the Scope Deck). There are various binoculars available, but also telescopes which can be trained on the major islands. Placed at different heights, they include user guidance, and are a great chance to look out live for all the birds you've read about and watched on screen.
The shop and café are worth a visit in their own right. Prints by local artists, local produce, cards with local scenes on, as well as your usual tourist souvenirs are all available. The café is surrounded by windows, offering a great chance to continue observing the sea and its birds over a warming cup of tea.
A discovery zone - watch birds live and learn about them
If you want to take a trip out to watch birds on or around the Bass Rock, then the Seabird Centre runs boat trips in season. The centre itself is open almost every day of the year, which makes it an excellent place to go when other places are shut. The website keeps streaming the cameras and includes calendars of what is happening to help keep you informed.